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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Turkey > Istanbul

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Things to do in Istanbul

Catch a Whirling Dervishes performance

Hodjapasha Cultural Center showcases delightful Whirling Dervishes performing a religious dance called the sema, which represents one's spiritual journey to achieve love and wisdom.

Discover Street Art

Istanbul is awash with some of the world's most astounding graffiti, but in a bustling city of 15 million people you need to know where to look. Put aside an afternoon and lose yourself in a self-guided tour of the city’s most impressive street art. Simply download the 'Streetart Istanbul' app (www.streetart-istanbul.com) and discover a wealth of information about routes, neighbourhoods and artists.

Feel the sand between your toes

Few would wish to risk the murky waters of the Bosphorus around Istanbul, but 30 minutes from the city is the Kilyos beach on the Black Sea. There are even better sandy beaches on Avsa, one of the Marmara Islands, around 100km (62 miles) southwest of the city in the Sea of Marmara, accessible by ferry from Istanbul.

Go skiing…yes really

Approximately 2 hours from Istanbul is Uludag National Park, which becomes a busy winter sports resort between mid-January and mid-March. It offers a choice of slopes accessed by lifts, along with around 30 places to stay, ranging from upmarket lodges to affordable backpacker hostels. Backpacker Travel (www.backpackerstravel.net) offers a number of one-day or overnight winter sports trips.

Visit the Basilica Cistern

Built during the 6th century, this cistern was constructed using 336 columns and originally conceived to service the Great Palace and its surrounding buildings. Now it is a lovingly restored testament to the Byzantine era. As you traverse its tunnels, you’ll feel water dripping on your head and see schools of fish marauding through its waters.

Visit the Prince Islands

Located southeast of Istanbul are the Prince Islands, a mainly car-free peaceful haven for those who welcome a relief from the buzz of the city. Each island offers its own charms, with many flocking to Heybeliada for its natural and picturesque scenery. Büyükada, the largest island, boasts an assortment of authentic and delicious foods, while Kınalıada’s blue Ayazma Cove offers visitors spectacular views over crystal clear waters.

Only four of the nine islands – Büyükada, Heybeliada, Kınalıada and Burgazada – are open to the public and are accessible by ferry.